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My Take On It: A snapshot of Malawi’s leaders in 57 years of independent rule, Part IX

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ – Acts 13:22 

Malawians are a prayerful people. For 31 years they prayed for former first President Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda to have a long life. God heard, Banda lived to hand over leadership via a referendum and even contested in an election he only took part to give legitimacy of the new environment Malawians voted for in the 1993 Referendum. Fast forward 26 years later, in June 2020, Malawians overwhelmingly chose as their president a man who openly and enthusiastically professes to talk with God.  Enter Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera and Saulos Kalus Chilima, the Dynamic Duo.

Although some may argue that not all Malawians are prayerful, this is beside the point. President Lazarus Chakwera, Vice Saulos President Chilima, former President Joyce Banda, and other Tonse Alliance members such as Chibambo and others, are profusely prayer warriors.

Malawi ConCourt’s 2020 decision that directed fresh presidential elections to be held in Malawi, entered into global jurisprudence history records. In response and to ensure victory, the challengers of the faulty 2019 elections, the chief plaintiffs, Chakwera and Chilima met behind closed doors, emerging with a 9-party-strong Tonse Alliance, that easily sailed to victory.

As these events (court and super secretive political party summit were taking place, amid daily country-wide demonstrations on Malawi streets, upper room prayer sessions were established throughout the land, and many continue to this day. The mission was to pray for a just ConCourt outcome, peace, and the people’s choice to prevail.

The daily demonstrations drew large crowds of men, women, youth chanting songs, highlighting the power people have through the vote. As with the 1993 Referendum, the creativity of Malawians burst forth in song, dance, drama, and artwork; social media prayed a huge part in an instant, fast, and efficient message delivery. People’s power was alive and well in Malawi. With the skills people developed and amassed for themselves, suddenly the power to direct and control events in their country has become an art form. In a swirling instant, brilliant minds have mushroomed all over Malawi, in a variety of formats, these minds are crowding decision-making processes, and a myriad of voices are afoot everywhere.

In the first year of Chakwera’s rule, Malawians have crowded the stage of decision making, with numerous threats to go to the streets; some officials dipping their hands in public funds; the pandemic claiming lives of high and low echelons of the Malawi community; at one time, talks were rife that the Tonse Alliance would suffer an early death as a leadership crisis loomed, forcing the big 9 to a Mangochi summit.

My faith in the man who talks with God was intact. The upper rooms are still engaged in prayer warfare. The Alliance lives. Malawi shall not have blackmail democracy, nor will it entertain backdoor leadership.

What kind of leader is Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera? The first time I met Lazarus Chakwera was during our first year at Chancellor College. He was a born again (BA) Christian. He had a peculiar way of greeting: “Praise God! How are you, Janet?” my friends and I nicknamed him “the praise God guy.” Fast forward 15 years, the praise God guy was the general secretary of the Assemblies of God Church in Malawi, a post he held until he lost his argument with God and joined politics 13 years into the new millennium. He spent seven years as leader of the opposition, a credible and vocal voice of dissent.

Soft-spoken and highly articulate, Lazarus Chakwera, uses top-form parallelisms in his speeches, a style that easily elevates him amongst great orators such as Martin Luther King Jr., Julia Caesar’s Mark Anthony, Barak Obama, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and other giants. His inaugural speech led to thepopular catchphrase, slogan Itsanana (this is what Malawians heard when Chakwera said, “it’s an honor….”). A few months later, when delivering the eulogy for Tanzanian President John Pombe Magafuli, Chakwera yet again rose the parallel ladder by repeating the phrase “they did not see Magafuli coming….”  He is humble, reverent, respectful, trusting, loving, recognizes, devoted, faithful, obedient, and repentant. He is truly a man after God’s heart.

When State House Communications Director on Monday announced that President Chakwera cancelled plans for in-person attendance at this year’s United Nations General Assembly Summit (UNGA), it was due to pressing engagements in Malawi. Many unpaid decision-makers scoffed, jeered, ridiculed, and mocked this as a lame excuse; others thought it could be because of the start on September 14 of the DPP elections case challenge. Two days later, however, the US government is urging the over 150 countries that normally attend the UNGA summit in September, to consider giving a video address instead of going to New York, thereby turning the event into a super-spreader event (of COVID).

If by chance, Malawians should lose their appetite for prayer, that is alright. They have a president that talks, and sometimes argues with God. He will pray for himself and put in a good word for his people, aMaravi also known as aNyasa.

Janet Karim
Janet Karim
Author, high school Learning Disabilities Teacher, candidate Master of Education Special Education, Mason University; highly organized, charismatic and persuasive Communications Specialist and accomplished Journalist, Editor with 41 years in the communications field, offering expertise in all phases of print, broadcast, telecast, and social media productions. Enthusiastic story teller. Highly-motivated and trained media professional possessing exceptional writing and editing skills with ability to draft engaging and effective content; Opinion column contributor for leading national dailies (Maravi Post - 2015-PRESENT; Nation Malawi - 2015-PRESENT; Times Malawi (2004-2007). Other areas of expertise include grant writing and NGO project management. Highly trained in international, regional and local lobbying and election skills. Collaborates with international companies to initiate development policy change and foster public awareness, with deep commitment to social justice and health care equity; especially in work towards women's political, economic, and social empowerment; ending child, early and forced marriage; and promoting the human rights of the elderly. Advocate for highlighting climate change its effects on the planet. International development work experience with the United Nations headquarters (10 years, and two years UNDP field work); field experience (Malawi) - Oxfam, UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO. Superb public speaker who communicates effectively with target audiences through strategic one-to-one or large audiences, expert in event planning and PR campaigns. Conscientious, diplomatic, and tactful in all communicationsg.


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